The line “If you build it, he will come” from the classic film “Field of Dreams” is often misquoted as “if you build it, they will come.”
However, in the case of Wayne Preparatory Academy, it really is “if you build it, they will come.”
Wayne Prep first opened its doors seven years ago. The school currently serves kindergarten–11th grades and will have its first senior class in the fall of 2022.
Along with building up the number of students and grade classes, Wayne Prep has also been steadily building up its athletics program.
And the athletic program’s future is only getting brighter.
“It’s been and fun exciting,” Wayne Prep athletic director Anthony Wright said about the school’s growth. “The main thing is I enjoy making sure these kids have fun. It’s student firsts and athletes second.”
Wright arrived at Wayne Prep in 2016. He attended Northside High School in Jacksonville and got his bachelor’s degree at Elizabeth City State University. Wright’s former basketball coach and principal at Northside inspired him to become an educator.
He and the school’s coaches have been working hard to build up Wayne Prep’s athletics programs.
When Wright first got to Wayne Prep, the school had no high school athletics, so Wright started a running club to get students interested in athletics.
The following year, Wright started to put things in motion to create the middle school basketball program.
“We actually didn’t have a building, so we were at church,” Wright said. “So, I asked some of the charter schools and asked, ‘hey could play a few games, and they said ‘sure,’ so I took about 10 guys, and we practiced in the cold, and it went from there.”
Currently, Wayne Prep offers volleyball, soccer, cross country, cheerleading, basketball, golf, track and field, softball, baseball, and tennis.
Some sports are majority high school students, some are majority middle school students, and some feature a mixture of high school and middle school students.
Only students in sixth-eighth grade can participate in middle school athletics, while students in seventh-ninth grade can participate in junior varsity athletics, provided the ninth-grade students are housed in the same building as the seventh and eighth-grade students.
Wright said in the next couple of years, Wayne Prep will split all of sports and field middle school, JV, and varsity teams in most sports.
“It’s rewarding,” Wright said. “As long as I see the kids out there smiling and working hard, then that’s all that matters.”
Despite only starting its athletic program a few years ago, Wayne Prep has already found success at various levels.
The boys’ varsity basketball team finished as runners-up at last years’ FCA Winter Classic, while the middle school volleyball team had an undefeated season and won a conference title.
For Wright, the success on the field or court is nice, but seeing the student-athletes grow, on and off the court, from elementary school to high school is the most rewarding part of his job.
“It’s a blessing to see these kids prosper,” Wright said. “I remember coaching basketball, and I had a young point guard in the sixth grade, and he’s a ninth-grader now, and he’s doing awesome.”
Wayne Prep is currently a part of the Carolina Athletic Association for Schools of Choice. CAA4SC is a not-for-profit organization created to provide competitive athletic competition for non-traditional educational institutions.
The CAA4SC consists of member schools, such as Wayne Prep, Mt. Zion Sallie B. Howard. Iron Academy, and formerly Wilson Preparatory Academy.
Wilson Prep is now a member of the N.C. High School Athletic Association and Wayne Prep plans to follow in Wilson Prep’s footsteps and one day join the NCHSAA.
“As long the as the student-athletes are there to compete, that’s all that matters,” Wright said.
Wright said the biggest challenge right now is not having facilities on campus for every sport.
The school currently has a gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, a cross country course, and a soccer field, although Wayne Prep played many games at the Bryan Multi-Sports Complex. Wayne Prep also uses off-campus facilities for baseball, softball, and track and field.
“Every athletic director wants their facilities on campus, so if we could get our facilities one day, and eventually I know we will,” Wright said. “Competing-wise, I think we do well when it comes to sports.”
With a foundation firmly in place, Wayne Prep plans to keep on building up its athletic programs and facilities.
The school started construction on a high school. The current high school is located off-campus, the new high school will be completed around July 2022. Wright and the rest of the schools’ coaches, teachers, and administrators look forward to what the future brings.
“I’m not worried about right now. I’m worried about the future,” Wright said.